For many years, California has been a leader in making changes to help all kids grow up at a healthy weight. There has been particularly noteworthy progress in the southern part of the state, from Bakersfield and Kern County down to San Diego, where Kaiser Permanente—an organization perhaps best known as a healthcare provider—has been spearheading efforts to create a Culture of Health.

A mother and daughter enjoy a healthy snack from a food truck.
A mother and daughter enjoy a healthy snack from a food truck at The Quartyard in San Diego.
Children and parents crossing the street with a crossing guard.
The Lauderbach Elementary Safe Streets Program, in Chula Vista, encourages children to walk and bicycle to school.
Children playing with a colored tarp in a gym.
At Whittier YMCA, kids work together while engaging in physical activity.
Girl and boy play on exercise balls.
Students at Whittier YMCA bounce their way to maintaining a healthy weight.

Kaiser operates a wide variety of community programs in Southern California dedicated to helping children eat healthier foods and move more:

  • HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Zones: Since 2004, Kaiser Permanente has launched six HEAL Zones across the region. Working with other local partners, Kaiser strives to build safe walking and biking routes, improve access to affordable healthy foods, ensure parks are clean and safe for families to use and build up after school programs for children and teens.
  • In 2008, the YMCA of Greater Whittier partnered with two hospitals, the city of Whittier, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to establish Activate Whittier. The local partnership focused on programs to promote healthier choices in local convenience stores, supporting school wellness councils and engaging residents in local advocacy projects. Middle-school student Analaura Amezquita won their contest to design a “Healthy Picks” logo, and after the stores started using it to designate healthier items, the percentage of customers paying attention to healthy food choices grew from 17 percent to 50 percent.
  • Fire Up Your Feet: Kaiser also is working with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the National Parent Teacher Association on this online campaign to encourage kids to walk or bike to school. The website lets students track their progress and compete with friends, and provides schools with tools for healthy fundraisers.

Over the last decade, Kaiser Permanente has worked with a wide variety of local partners to make it easier for its members—and other young people in Southern California—to lead healthier lives, and they report that they’re making progress.

Between 2008 and 2013, Kaiser Permanente measured the height and weight of 1.3 million youth ages 2 to 19. The obesity rate among these children and adolescents dropped from 19.1 percent in 2008 to 17.5 percent in 2013. The declines were seen across age, sex, race and ethnicity, and family income, but were greater among boys, young children, and white and Asian youth. Continued focus is needed to ensure that all young people in the region—no matter who they are or where they live—are able to grow up at a healthy weight.

A student makes a salad for lunch.
At Edison Elementary School in San Diego students have healthier lunch options to choose from.
Three girls preparing a school lunch.
Students at Whittier YMCA prepare a meal.
A student does pushups during a physical education class.
Students take part in a teacher-led fitness class at Longfellow Elementary HEAL ZONE, which promotes healthy eating and activity.
A father and daughter walk on the street together.
Father and daughter take a stroll down Whittier Greenway Trail, a 4.5-mile recreational and commuter bikeway and pedestrian path.

Originally posted on June 23, 2016.

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